It will no longer be business as usual for lawyers, who are in the habit of delaying trial, Chief Judge of Lagos, State Justice Opeyemi Oke has said.
The Nation reports that she said the judiciary was set to review its Civil Procedure Rules 2012 to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
Justice Oke, who spoke yesterday at a summit in Lagos to review the 2012 Civil Procedure Rules, said the new rules expected to come into effect as from January, imposed sanctions on lawyers, adding that they were firm, strict and would block the hindrances delaying justice delivery.
She said if possible, she will love to see a situation where a lawyer will lose his license for delaying justice, as is done in Singapore.
“We need to take firmer position, particularly on adjournments. In Singapore, adjournment is only allowed on a matter of life and death. Things we tolerate here are not tolerated in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Why can’t we replicate those rules in our courts if they will hasten justice delivery?”
Justice Oke stressed the need to always review the court rules to suit socio-economic demands and for laws in the state to remain sound, active and functional. She said court congestion had been a major problem in the justice sector.
The chief judge said henceforth, adjournment would no longer be granted on unnecessary applications. She encouraged members of the bar to advise their clients on the usage of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in resolving issues, to reduce judges’ workload.
Justice Oke said all cases must first be referred for mediation, adding that courts would henceforth be the last resort, as done in other jurisprudence around the world.
The Chairman of the Civil Procedures Rules Committee, Justice Kazeem Alogba, giving insight into the proposed review already carried out, said any lawyer who scuttled any trial date would pay a minimum fine of N100,000.00 and N50,000 in the case of an interlocutory application for which a date had been fixed for hearing.
He said non-compliance with Form 01 on Pre-Action Protocol would render the process a nullity, in addition to ‘serious punishment’.
Justice Alogba said for instance, where a matter was left in the docket of a judge, six months after commencement of trial, the matter would be summarily struck out. To ensure diligent prosecution, he said default fees would be N1,000 per day as against the old N200.
Justice Alogba said the proposed new Civil Rule made provision for video conference in taking evidence and limited the main written address to 20 pages on A4 paper, 14 point type size and five pages for reply on point of law.
He said all means of electronic communication personal to a respondent would be deployed for service and be taken as proof of service by substitution.
The judge sought cooperation of lawyers to block delay in justice delivery, explaining that the essence of the summit was to get opinions of the bar on the proposed working rules.